Iran's only AWACS crashesOn Tuesday, I reported that a plane had crashed in Iran and seven people had been killed. Defense News is reporting that the plane that crashed was participating in Tuesday's military parade in Tehran, and that it was Iran's one and only AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System).
Iran's sole Simorgh AWACS aircraft was lost during a military parade Sept. 22, one of two Iranian military aircraft that crashed in Tehran while participating in a display to mark the anniversary of the start of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.DEBKA adds (Hat Tip: Danny A):
The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force operated a single Simorgh, a former Iraqi Air Force Adnan. The Adnan AWACS was in turn a modification of a Soviet-built Ilyushin Il-76 transport.
The Simorgh collided with one of the Air Force's Northrop F-5E Tiger II fighters over the area of the Imam Khomeyni Shrine, southern Tehran. According to eyewitnesses, the crash occurred immediately after the parade. Apparently, no mayday call was issued.
Both aircraft crashed in flames. Initial reports indicate that seven crewmembers were killed in the crash.
In total, Iraq built three AWACS aircraft, one Baghdad, and two Baghdad-2s, the latter later renamed Adnans. One Adnan and the Baghdad were evacuated to Iran during the 1991 Gulf War, while the second Adnan was destroyed on the ground by a coalition air strike in January 1991.
The exact status of the Iranian Simorgh and its onboard systems was long uncertain. However, photographs suggest that the aircraft was equipped with a newly fitted functioning radar suite.
Dubbed "Simorgh" (a flying creature of Iranian fable which performs wonders in mid-flight), the AWACS' appearance, escorted by fighter jets, was to have been the climax for the Iranian Air force's fly-past over the parade. Instead, it collided with one of escorting planes, a US-made F-5E, and both crashed to the ground in flames. All seven crewmen were killed.Iran's English language Press TV reports that the Iranian Air Force is denying that Tuesday's crash was connected with what it calls the 'aerial maneuver.'
Eye witnesses reported that the flaming planes landed on the mausoleum burial site of the Islamic revolution's founder Ruhollah Khomeini, a national shrine. According to Western observers, no distress signals came from either cockpit indicating that the collision and explosions were sudden and fast.
DEBKAfile's military sources say the disaster was a serious blow to the Iranian Air Force not long after its first and only AWACS went into service in April 2008. It was a renovated version of the Russian Ilyushin 76, part of Saddam Hussein's air force before it was transferred to Iran in 1991 during the first Gulf War.
Tehran hired Russian technicians to carry out renovations and install up-to-date radar. At the launching ceremony of the upgraded AWACS, Air Force commander Brig. Gen. Ahmad Miqani boasted its new radar systems were made in Iran and able to spot any airplane or missile at a distance of 1,000 kilometers from Iran's borders.
The loss of this airborne control system has left Iran's air force and air and missile defenses without "electronic eyes" for surveillance of the skies around its borders.
The picture at the top is Iranian F-4 aircraft in action at Tuesday's parade.
I did not see any indication that the Mossad has been asked for comment.
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There is raw video of the crash's aftermath here.